NJ police identify 19-year-old lifeguard killed by lightning

BERKELEY TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — Police on Tuesday identified the lifeguard killed by a lightning strike at the Jersey Shore as a 19-year-old, one of four lifeguards hit by the bolt.

Keith Pinto, of Toms River, was among eight people who were hit by lightning Monday afternoon in Berkeley Township.

The others were taken to local hospitals with injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

The strike happened just after 4:30 p.m. Monday at the 21st Avenue beach, near the entrance gates to Island Beach State Park, just south of Seaside Park.

It marked the second death of a young lifeguard at the Jersey Shore in a little over a week.

On Aug. 20, 16-year-old lifeguard Norman Inferrera III died a day after an accident in Cape May, on New Jersey’s southern tip. A lifeboat he was rowing was struck by a wave and flipped over, knocking him unconscious, authorities said.

The line-of-duty deaths were extremely unusual for lifeguards, according to Tom Gill, a spokesperson for the U.S. Lifesaving Association. He said the two New Jersey deaths in less than two weeks were just the second and third he can recall in the last 30 to 40 years.

“This just doesn’t happen,” Gill said. “For two fatalities in such a short time frame in the same general area, this is a tragedy beyond measure.”

Berkeley’s beaches are closed to swimming through Thursday as crisis counseling is made available to lifeguards and beach staff. People will be allowed to sit on the beach and sunbathe.

Police said an investigation is continuing.


Follow Wayne Parry at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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